CHS graduates largest class in school history

by May 26, 2023NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Asst. Editor


CHEROKEE, N.C. – A total of 98 Braves and Lady Braves crossed the stage in Ray Kinsland Stadium during the Cherokee High School Commencement Ceremony on the evening of Thursday, May 25 marking the largest graduating class in school history.

Ariyonna Hill-Maney, Cherokee High School Class of 2023 valedictorian, gives her address during the school’s commencement ceremony at Ray Kinsland Stadium on the evening of Thursday, May 25. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

Craig Barker, CHS assistant principal, said in opening the night’s festivities, “These are some of the finest young individuals that I’ve had the privilege of teaching and coaching.  It’s always a great day to be a Brave.”

Dr. Debora Foerst, CHS principal, said in her address, “Class of 2023, I am filled with deep admiration and immense pride for each and every one of you.  Today marks the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.  Together, we have weathered countless challenges, overcome obstacles, and embraced opportunities for growth.  And, through it all, one phrase has echoed in our hearts and our minds – your motto, ‘It is what it is.’”

“This motto, seemingly simple yet profound in its essence, has guided us throughout our journey.  When we were sent home for the better part of a year, we said, ‘it is what it is’.  When we returned and had to wear masks, do daily temperature checks, walk a particular way in the hall, eat breakfast and lunch in our classrooms, sit six feet apart, we said, ‘it is what it is’…this motto reminds us to accept the realities of life, both victories, defeats, and setbacks with grace and resilience.  It encourages us to confront adversity head-on, acknowledging that some circumstances may be beyond our control.  The response to them defines our character.”


Ariyonna Hill-Maney, CHS valedictorian, said in her address that she is one of 16 students graduating who were in the first pre-K class at the new CHS campus.  “As we have grown into the shoes we are supposed to fill, we have walked our own chosen paths – sometimes with confidence, strength of will, and purpose and other times with nothing but the grace given to us by our Creator.  Whether we arrived at this place in a condition you might call whole or whether we arrived here with a few scars from learning lessons, we are here today to celebrate our transformation from excited little pre-K students to thriving young men and women ready to take on new challenges.”

Alexis Smith, CHS Class of 2023 salutatorian, gives her address.

Hill-Maney will attend the University of California – Irvine in the fall and said Cherokee Central Schools helped prepare her and others in taking the next step. “We will be better at everything we do because of the kindness of heart and the dedication to learning showered on us by the teachers here at the best school on Earth.”

She added, “I am eternally grateful to the teachers and coaches who cared enough to tell me when I was not giving my all and also when I did my best.”

Alexis Smith, CHS salutatorian, thanked teachers and school officials, mentors, and family members for their help along the way given to each student.  “You have molded us into successful young women and men, and for that, we will forever be grateful.”

She went on to say, “I reflect on the past, going back to elementary and middle school where I first met my group of friends who became like family to me.  As I reflect on our favorite memories, our crazy locker room shenanigans stand out the most.  Those times allowed us to build a bond among our team which carried us throughout our season (basketball) and then eventually allowed us to become regular season and tournament conference champs our senior year.  I will never forget all the great times we had together.  Without these friends, who are like family to me, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.”

Smith said she has learned many life lessons during high school.  “I’ve learned that to be successful and to get what you want, it takes hard work, determination, and sacrifice.  These lessons, memories, and sacrifices have shaped us into who we are now.  But, our willingness to continue to learn forever will make us into the people we are meant to be.”

Kyra West, CHS Class of 2023 president, said, “My advice to everyone here, but mainly the younger classes, is to push through it because I promise you, it is so worth it.  Because, without the fear, there is no courage, and with courage, we can make impacts.”

Xavier Otter, left, and Jaelyn Lossiah, right, received the Dr. Jerry Wolfe Gadugi Award as presented by the WCU (Western Carolina University) Cherokee Center. Shown, left to right, are Otter; Jake Stephens, Dr. Wolfe’s grandson; Sky Sampson, WCU Cherokee Center director; and Lossiah.

During the ceremony, several awards were given including the following:

  • NAIWA Award presented by Loretta Bolden to Ariyonna Hill-Maney and Alexis Smith
  • American Legion Award presented by Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 Vice Commander Sam Lambert to Connor Pheasant
  • JROTC Command Sword presented by Lt. Col. (Ret.) William Carter, CHS JROTC senior instructor, to Rachel Maney
  • Jerry Wolfe Gadugi Award presented by WCU Cherokee Center Director Sky Sampson and Jake Stephens, Dr. Wolfe’s grandson, to Jaelyn Lossiah and Xavier Otter
  • Tsalagi A hi ya sgi Cherokee Language Award, presented by Laura Pinnix and Richard Bottchenbaugh, both of the CHS Cherokee Language Program, to Emma Taylor

The following students were in the CHS Class of 2023: Austin Michael Alderman, Mahala Renee Allison, Emma Mae Anthony, Dominyk Ean Arch, Alyxandra Nicole Armachain, Jaden Cole Armachain, Katherine Abra Armachain, Thomas Garrett Armachain, Madison Breann Backwater, Anna Elizabeth Bigwitch, Deonta Phillip Luis Bird, Elexia Kayleigh Bird, Hezekiah Elias Bird, Julius James Bolden, Johnny Lee Bradley, Darrin James Brown, Milli Tae Bryson, Ethan Daniel Cisneros-Librado, Nicholas David Cole, Idalis Mikenzi Crowe, Chayme ADeLa Cucumber, Kensen Winter Davis, Makala Jade Davis, Dalen Spencer Driver, Jaylynne Kay Esquivel, Tanin Wilson Esquivel, Tanis Charles Esquivel, Adia Frady, Amiya Jo George, Brantley Driver George, Autumn Lily Greene, William Gordon Hartbarger, Dasgigidi Denili Brody Hill, Kenton Usditsisqua Hill, Ariyonna Jade Hill-Maney, Da’quan Wahkeen Jumper, Dalmon Feke Yekce King, Brystyn Brad Lee Littlejohn, Rae Lynn Littlejohn, Terrell Andrew-Lee Locust, Anthony Chanse Lossiah, Calvin Tyee Ugidahli Lossiah, Jacklin Katreece Lossiah, Mae Jaelyn Lossiah, Zacharian Elias Edward Lossiah, Allessandra Luna-Martinez, Rachel Elizabeth Maney, Zechariah James Maney, Aid Martinez, Cristofer Fidel Mazariegos Rivera, Eli Timothy McCoy, Hayden Jake McCoy, Jaylan Dean McCoy-Bark, Luther Caine Murphy, Zachary Michael Scott O’Kelley, Alessandra Esperanza Oocumma, Xavier Johnson Otter Jr., Gabriel Dean Palmer, Adam I-nad-a-na Panther, Ashlea Lynn Parker, Connor David Pheasant, Madison Cherise Pummer, Acacia McKayla Reed, Allyson Faith Reed, Brixton Kai Reed, Cavan Malaki Reed, Kaniah Nicole Reed, Lilah Alisabeth Reynolds, Rayna Nukwadeye Ricks, Vivian Layne Ross, Cameron Dahntay Sampson Lane, Keneil Gavin Saunooke, Walika Nakiyah Saunooke, Chandler Zane Wilburn Shelton, Destiny Astarria Siweumptewa, Joseph Samuel Smart, Alexis Cheyenne Smith, Kaden Michael Smith, Nessa Mae Smith, Ellise Raelyne Stamper, Liberty Anell Sutton, Oztin Malachi Swayney, Dacian Krister Amai Tafoya, Emma Lou Taylor, Ayden Dantaye Thompson, Jayden Tooni, Justin Carslyle Walk, Avlin Jace Welch, Kenneth Gage Welch, Walker Shakanoge Welch, Kyra Tyrea West, Kamia Allyn Wiggins, Adam Skyler Willett, Coby Tre’ Willis, Aiden Jax Wolfe, Tyler Dreton Wolfe, Kayandra Elaine Youngdeer